Rania Zuri founded The LiTEArary Society to end book deserts and support early childhood literacy for disadvantaged children ages 3 to 5. Her nonprofit has donated over $200,000 worth of new books to more than 21,000 children in Head Start, the federal program for preschoolers who live at or below the poverty line. She organized the West Virginia Head Start Road Tour in her home state to hand-deliver a new book to each of the nearly 7,000 children in the state’s Head Start program. For many, it was the first book of their own. She followed that tour with a similar one through all of Appalachia. Thanks to donations from Scholastic and Laura Numeroff, author of the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series, Rania has now hand-delivered or sent new books to Head Start programs in every state.

Her work stems from her own love of books and the comfort they brought as a child. She first learned about book deserts — areas where it’s difficult to access books — while establishing a small library for migrant girls. Rania decided to form a network of book clubs called The LiTEArary Society where members could discuss books over tea (one of her loves), host community read-alouds for children, and gift new books to them. Her entirely youth-led organization now has over 500 members across thirteen states, along with chapters in Europe and Asia. She recently wrote and illustrated a series of Appalachian-themed children’s books to help fund her work. Through a U.S. Senate Resolution, she and U.S. Senator Manchin of West Virginia are working to establish National Early Childhood Literacy Awareness Day. “On my West Virginia Head Start Road Tour, I saw enough of the struggle to want to be a part of the solution for the rest of my life,” says Rania. “My passion for books has found a purpose.”

Rania is a 2023 Barron Prize winner.

Discussion Questions

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IYH Behind the Scenes

We had so much fun filming Rania with her friends and all of the sweet children in the classrooms we visited.